5 essential niche ballots for newspapers


If you're like most publishers, you're always on the hunt for new ways to grow and engage your audience. Niche ballots are the perfect answer to both.

Niche ballots can be created to complement every section of your print publication and target specific audience you're wanting to grow. Plus, when you add an email opt-in, you can create a rich database of people interested in the topic of your ballot – anything from local sports to local dining.

Here are five niche ballot ideas you can add to your calendar:

1. Athlete of the Week

It's likely you have stories, content and entire sections dedicated to local sports teams. An Athlete of the Week ballot is an excellent opportunity to promote your current content as well as draw in a large audience interested in voting for their local favorites. (Plus, with ready-to-use turnkeys, these are even quicker to pull together.)

The Houma Courier's (circ. 14,000) "Athletes of the Week" ballot ran from September through April. Each week, hundreds of users cast their vote on the paper's top weekly athletes, and a weekly male and female favorite is chosen as winner. Sponsored by a local Honda dealership and sports medicine center, the ballot generated over $15,000 in revenue.

2. Food & Drink

If you're already writing stories related to the local restaurants and bars in your community, a niche ballot can be an excellent way to promote that content and grow your audience. Consider running a different ballot each month relating to a different topic such as Best of BBQ, Best Bars, Best Food Truck or Best Burgers.

If there's one food people are passionate about, it's pizza. The Ottawa Daily Times (circ. 15,000) created a "Pizza Games" ballot where users cast their votes for their favorite local pizza joints. The ballot had four categories: Best Overall Pizza, Favorite Specialty Pizza, Favorite Thin/Regular Crust Pizza and Favorite Thin/Stuffed/Deep Dish Pizza. The winners of the contest were announced in the paper.

3. Parenting

Content related to families is popular with any audience. Parenting or Family Favorites ballots can have a wide range of categories including Best Schools, Best Daycares, Best Family Restaurants, Best Pediatricians or even Best Family Vacations.

The Citizen-Times (circ. 58,000) runs an annual "Family Choice Awards" ballot featuring eight main categories (including Food, Birthdays and Outdoors) with dozens of subcategories (like Best Kids' Menu, Best Birthday Party Entertainment and Best Family-Friendly Hiking Trail). Just this year, users cast over 9,000 votes for their local family favorites. The paper published all the results in-print and online, so they live as a directory for local families throughout the year.

4. Shopping

Your paper or magazine features local small businesses all the time. Capitalize on your current content by running niche ballots highlighting the shops in your area. With categories like Best Clothing Stores, Best Home Improvement Stores, Best Jewelry and Floral Shops, or Best Specialty Stores, these ballots are an excellent opportunity to grow a targeted audience for your future content and your potential future advertisers.

D Magazine's (circ. 60,000) "Best of the Big D: Shopping" ballot featured nearly 30 categories including Best Vintage Furniture Shop, Best Men's Clothing Store, Best Shoe Store and even Best Museum Gift Shop. This annual ballot is big deal for the community. This year, over 1,600 people cast more than 5,700 votes. Plus, with an email opt-in, the magazine was also able to grow its database.

5. Local Events

No matter your city or town, you're sure to have a handful of popular local events from festivals and chili cook-offs to Octoberfests and homecomings. A ballot can be an excellent tool for not only driving awareness about the event, but it can also help you determine the businesses that get to participate. Your ballot could contain categories such as Best Festival Food, Best Summerfest Band, Must-Stop-At Vendor and even Best Fair Ride or Attraction.

For over 30 years, the city of Madison, Wis., has hosted the "Taste of Madison" festival. This two-day event brings together all sorts of local food and entertainment featuring over 80 restaurants and 35 musical performances. Hosted by Madison.com (circ. 100,000) the "Best of Taste of Madison" ballot is used to decide the crowd's fan favorite participating restaurants.

Get started by making a list of all the content you're currently producing and all the upcoming local initiatives on your calendar. Then sit down with your entire team to brainstorm niche ballot ideas that could fit each one. By adding just a few of these ballots into your calendar, your entire company will be able to benefit right away.

Matt Coen is the president and co-founder of Second Street, a leading provider of private-label online promotions platforms and partner success services for media companies based in St. Louis, Mo. He can be reached at (314) 880-4902 or matt@secondstreet.com.

Second Street, Coen


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